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THE ART UNION.
OUR ART CLUBS.
III.— The Society of American Artists.
IT is nearly ten years since
that famous exhibition
at the National Academy of
Design, when certain of the
younger painters of America
made a sudden and unex-
pected assertion of their
powers which opened peo-
ple's eyes to the existence of
an entirely new art among
us — an art fed from a differ-
ent fount of inspiration and
feeling to what had erst been
regarded as our own. and
bred in a different school.
CHARLES F. UI.RICH.
The new movement, as it has been called, was a
declaration of new ideas and new met hod?, neither
more nor less, the ideas and the methods being
those of the great European school in which its
champions had graduated. The result of the new
movement was the formation, during the sum-
mer after the spring exhibition of 1877, of the
Society of American Ariists.
In its constitution the new society commences
with the declaration, "The name of this associa-
tion shall be ' The Society of American Artists. '
Its location the City of New York. Its object
shall be the advancement of the Fine Arts."
There is something magnificent in the far-reach-
ing and chivalric quality of this simply framed
declaration of principles. If the society has,
for causes which are not a subject for discus-
sion here, failed to achieve the end it might, it
still did much towards it, and will, with judi-
cious government and application of its latent
powers, do much more. It has given us some
fine and always interesting exhibitions, and no
time was ever as ripe as the present for it to re-
assert itself and resume the splendid work it set
out to perform.
The first two exhibitions of the society were
its best. In these it made a deep impression oi
technical advancement and executive power,
and through them it commanded for its mem-
bers such respect as is accorded by thoughtful men to men of new
ideas. But the impression did not reach the general public, who
understood but little of the aims and purposes of the band of
young enthusiasts, and naturally sympathized but little with a phase of
art that was above them. The society's displays were then, as they have
been since, artistic successes, but not popular ones. This year the
series was broken for the first time, no exhibition being given; but one is
definitely promised for the coming season, and the indications are that the
promise will be kept.
The roll call of the Society of American Artists is sufficient demonstra-
tion of the high quality of the art it champions. With figure painting and
portraiture represented by such painters as Walter Shirlaw, Eastman John-
son, Wm. M. Chase, Frederick Dielman, Kenyon Cox, Gilbert Gaul. John
La Farge, Will H. Low, Abbott H. Thayer, Charles F. Ulrich, F. W.
Freer, Elihu Vedder, George de Forest Brush, F. S. Church, Edwin H.
Blashfield, C. S. Reinhart, W. T. Smedley, C. Y. Turner, Thomas Hoven-
den, E. A. Abbey, J. Carroll Beckwith, T. W. Dewing, Frederick P. Vin-
ton, Frank Duveneck, John S. Sargent, Thomas Eakins, George W.
Maynard, Douglas Volk, Frank D. Millet and Wm. Dannat, among
others, there is not a modern school or a modern inspiration in art which
does not find expression in the ranks of the association. When we turn
to landscape, we find its claims upheld by such exponents as H. Bolton
Jones, Walter L. Palmer, Bruce Crane, Charles Melville Dewey, R. C.
Minor, W. L. Picknell, John N. Twachtman, Charles H. Miller, R. Swain
Giftord, Homer D. Martin, A. H. Wyant, D. W. Tryon and J. Francis
Murphy. The brothers St. Gaudens, Theodore Bauer, Olin L. Warner
and W. R. O'Donovan represent the plastic art in its councils. Arthur
Quartley, Wm. Gedney Bunce, Francis C. Jones, Birge Harrison, Francis
Lathrop, William Sartain, Louis C. Tiffany, Theodore Robinson and J. II.
Niemeyer are among the other names of approved merit on its list which
we just now recall. If memory serves us faithfully, there are four ladies
in the society— Rosina Emmet. Mary Cassatt, Helena De Kay Gilder and
Sarah W. Whitman.
E was certainly an extraordinary fellow,
a man of great talent and of equal ability,
but undecided, weak-willed and absolutely
without reliance on himself. But how could it
have been otherwise ? A life spent in art schools
and studios is not likely to make the liver of it a
man for emergencies or energetic deeds.
For two years he had not painted a picture,
but he had been painting on one all that time,
lie had commenced it on a panel as big as tr e top of
a table, cut it in half and made a recommence-
ment on each moiety, only to divide them and
cover each of the reduced planes with the same
experiment. Instead of one large panel, he, at
the end of two years, had eight small ones, all in
about the same condition of completion and
equally unsatisfactory to him.
"I don't know what it is," he used to say,
"but there's something about that central figure
I don't like, and that window is not what it
ought to be, I'll swear."
If any professional critic had got sight of his
work and criticised it half as mercilessly as he
did, I believe he would have murdered him.
But he continued tearing himself to pieces, sub-
sisting by painting figures and ornaments on
sign boards, locking himself up for days together
whenever he had secured sufficient money to hire
models, but coming no nearer the end of his
work after all. It was in vain that we argued
with him, in vain we swore the least complete of
his pictures was superior lo half the finished
works exhibited. They did not suit him, and
he pendulated steadily between hopefulness and
despair, to-day telling you what he proposed to do when he had made his
hit, to-morrow threaten-
ing to pistol himself.
The affair would have
been ridiculous if he had
not been a good fellow as
well as a foolish one. As
it was, we were uneasily
suspicious that he might
some day carry his threat
out, and sacrifice his life
as well as his labor to his
At last he walked into
the studio of his neigh-
bor, Smeere, one after-
noon, and after the j. alden weir.